Standards for Verifying Credibility of News Coverage

First: Accuracy

Accuracy is the foundation stone of credibility, and is, therefore, a solid basis of trust between media outlets and society. Procedure-wise, accuracy means avoiding all kinds of mistakes, such as informational, conceptual, linguistic, grammatical, typographical and all other types of errors. Precision is synonymous with being right and avoiding mistakes. It does not just require a commitment to what is right, or just a validation of opinions, attitudes, information and attribution of these; it also requires recognition of context and awareness of the background that would prevent mistakes.

-       Accuracy is measured by the following indicators:

-       avoiding incorrect content.

-       distancing the content from missing information, which in turn means avoiding distorted facts.

-       relaying information exactly as it came from the source without additions or omissions.

-       avoiding information errors.

-       avoiding mistakes in figures and indicators.

-       attributing opinions to their sources.

-       avoiding mistakes in concepts and terminology.

-       placing quotations in the context they were mentioned in

-       depending on reliable sources that have an attested history of credibility.

-       avoiding a collective attribution to sources except in specific cases where collective expression is clear and announced.

-       distancing the content from presenting photos or video clips that have been modified or tampered with.

Second: Balance

Balance is the transfer of information and opinions of sources equally and without any judgments or evaluation by the journalist. At the same time, the journalist has to maintain balance between public and private interests. A balanced content reflects the points of views of and information from all parties evenly. Balance in political coverage is the most sensitive and is usually achieved by a balanced definition of all political positions. It is noteworthy that a balanced content does not always mean an accurate one.

Balance is measured by the following indicators:

-        balance in the presentation of sources

-        balance in the use of language, without exaggeration

-        balance in the use of highlights and headlines

-        balance between public and private interests

-        balance in the use of photos and video clips

Third: Comprehensiveness and Integration

News material should be comprehensive and integrated, and not fragmented or selective. It should also guarantee tracking the news from its start to its end, and should search for the elements that complete it, whether through original sources or through fragments of information.

Comprehensiveness is measured by the following indicators:

-       comprehensive and adequate understanding of the subject

-       answering the question “who?”

-       answering the question “what?”

-       answering the question “where?”

-       answering the question “when?”

-       answering the question “how?”

-       maintaining context

-       using background information for definition purposes and to complete news material, and not for other purposes

Fourth: Clarity

Clarity in presentation leads to understanding content by specialists and by the public equally. Simplification is dangerous and has to be avoided, because it might lead to distortion and then to a lack of understanding of the problem. Over-simplifying the news has to be avoided as well, because that would make some sectors feel that their intelligence is being insulted.

Clarity is measured by the following indicators:

-       a specific and clear mention of events, incidents, people and labels.

-       clearly underlining information that has not been checked.

-       referring to the content’s archival history, and refrain from publishing old content as current news.

-       mentioning controversial contents together with their sources.

-       avoiding concepts and expressions that allow multiple interpretations.

-       avoiding complexity as well as specialized concepts and jargon unless a journalist has to resort to these, in which case a simple explanation has to be provided. 

-       clearly underlining how the information was obtained, even in cases where there was a reservation in mentioning the source.

-       clearly underlining the history, description and source of photos and video clips clarifying if these are relevant to the event, or if they are archival or expressive.

Fifth: Neutrality

Bias or subjectivity and favoritism in covering news have to be avoided. Neutrality means all intentional and unintentional practices that are free from a motivation to distort, marginalize, exaggerate or select that serves a specific purpose.

Neutrality and the lack of bias are measured by the following indicators:

-       favoritism: this happens when journalistic material reflects bias to one or more sides of the story at the expense of another side or sides. Bias through favoritism might sometimes result from the journalist’s  ignorance of the dimensions of the subject being covered. 

-       selectivity and selective omission: this entails omitting or obscuring facts that support a specific point of view with the purpose of showing its weakness for the sake of another point of view. It also includes harnessing sources or minimizing them to support a particular side against another.

-       highlighting content in a biased way. For example, highlighting material in a way that is incompatible with its place or size, and using headlines, photo, graphics and other tools.

-       incompatibility of the headline with the content.

-       exaggerating some aspects of the story, leading either to aggrandizing or damaging it in a way that is not consistent with reality.

Sixth: Fairness and Integrity

Covering what happened and what was said exactly as is with extreme honesty and by using expressions that were actually pronounced, without judgments, evaluations or attempts at corrections.

Fairness and integrity are measured by the following indicators:

-       honesty in covering what happened and what was said, without distorting them or reducing them so that they lose their meaning.

-       avoiding descriptions that denote preconceptions.

-       steering away from causing pain, embarrassment or harming people in the news if possible by presenting events and facts to the public without causing such damage or embarrassment.

-       commitment to protecting privacy in such a way that does not contradict with the society’s right to know.

-       avoid publishing photos that harm the individuals about whom the news is centered, if that harm is bigger than the news value of the photo.

-       avoid publishing accusations that do not come from the concerned source, and which do not rely on strong evidence.

Seventh: Objective Categorization

Objectivity is the opposite of subjectivity, and it is used in journalism as a synonym for many news values, or to describe accuracy, fairness and balance. For objectivity to have a measurable value that can be evaluated, AKEED uses objective categorization rules as established by sound journalism standards and practices that can be examined and evaluated.

Objectivity in separation is measured by the following indicators:

-       separating news content from advertising material.

-       clear separation of news content from opinions.

-       separating the content of incidents from speculations.

-       separating the content of information and incidents on the one hand, and imagination and emotions on the other hand.